Celebrating Catholic Motherhood

Home Blog  * Faith  *  Parenting  *  Adoption  *  Catholic Kids  * 
Gospel Coloring Activity *
Book Club  *  Music *
Cooking with Catholic Mom * Home and Garden Videos  * Links Shop to Help *
Contact Us * Search



Catholic Adoptive Parenting Columnist Heidi Hess Saxton

Additional Catholic Mom Columns


Gabriel Sullivan and his mother Carol

The Empathetic Heart

Yesterday I learned that the youngest son of Tom Sullivan, my partner at Canticle, was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. Gabriel is just 3-1/2 years old. My first thought (after, “Lord, please heal that little boy quickly and as painlessly as possible”) was, “Oh, that poor family.”

Please pray for Jeffrey, Tommy, Maria, Michael, and Joshua, along with their parents Tom and Carol, when you remember Gabriel.

When I heard the news, I was transported back to childhood, when I had a ringside seat to my younger sister’s struggle with bone cancer. Today she is a vivacious mother of two nearly grown children who moves faster on one leg than most other people do on two. But it was a scary time; as my parents struggled to tend to my sister’s needs, the effects of that struggle hit all of us with relentless force.

As I recall, the people who helped me the most were not effusive in their sympathy. After a while, it was hard not to resent adults who would greet me with a pained look and a saccharine, “How’s your sister?”

My hero at that time was a walleyed old waitress at the corner café. I’d sneak in to the diner after school, and for thirty-five cents (the cost of a Coke), I could sit and chew on Marguerite’s ear for the better part of an hour. (The diner was usually empty at that time.) I always came away from that place feeling as though I was not entirely alone in the cold, hard universe. She wasn’t particularly “soft” or even sympathetic – mostly she told me stories about her childhood. But she was the one person who never asked about my sister.

Foster parents and adoptive parents can sometimes find themselves having to help a child who has been traumatized by circumstances beyond his or her control. They may have big, ugly feelings about themselves: Misplaced guilt for something they said or did that (they think) made their birth family disappear, misdirected anger at you for their loss, or an increasing sense of shame over being “different” from their peers – and from you. At times like this, a certain amount of understanding is crucial; however, try not to dwell on it. That child will be far better off if you maintain a certain level of detachment, and show him or her how to resolve those feelings in a healthy way, and to rise above his past by focusing on the future. A truly “empathetic heart” is not soft and squishy, but brave.


Heidi Hess Saxton and her husband Craig are adoptive parents of two former foster children. Heidi is editor of "Canticle" magazine (, a publication of Women of Grace ( A convert to the Catholic faith since 1994, Heidi is a graduate student of theology and a voracious blogger for writers (the "Silent Canticle": http:\\ and adoptive parents (http:\\ She also likes to write about small miracles (http:\\ and what she's learned from other people, traversing the miles around the world and across her bookshelves. Her website is

Would you like to receive Heidi's column by email?  Send a message to Heidi.


05/04/07 Recommends:






Thank you for your support of
 through your Amazon purchases!

Dine Without Whine - A Family Friendly Weekly Menu Plan


Adoption Article Archives:


Adoption Resources:
These resources have been recommended by our readers.  To suggest a link or book, email [email protected] with your suggestion.

Helpful Links:

*Several readers have recommended local DHS and Catholic Charities for adoption resources. 

Little Flowers Foundation

Catholic Charities USA

National Council for Adoption

Priests for Life Alternatives to Abortion Resource Page

US Department of Health and Human Services

National Adoption

Information Clearinghouse

Catholic International Adoptive Parents Yahoo Group


Helpful Books:



Home Faith  *  Parenting  *  Catholic Kids  *  Book Club  *  Music  *  Videos  *  Shop to Help * Contact Us * Search

Contact Us:
2037 W. Bullard #247
Fresno, CA  93711

copyright 2000-07 Home Page